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Wonderfalls - Complete Series Review




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Rating
Video:   9/10
Audio:   8/10
Extras:   4/10

Wonder Why the Wonderfalls
by Gord Lacey (All reviews)
2/01/2005

Wonderfalls is a quirky series that fell victim to Fox's Friday Night Curse, the curse which claimed the time slots of so many shows before it. The show stars Caroline Dhavernas as Jaye Tyler, a recent Brown University graduate who moves back home to Niagara Falls, NY to start her wonderful career in retail. Jaye's life is pretty normal; she lives in a trailer park, hates her job, and has a dislike for her family. Everything was normal, at least until the wax lion started talking to her. Sure, she could ignore the voices of the talking animals, but they just won't shut up, so she starts to listen, and then she starts doing what they ask. Jaye doesn't know whether she's insane, or if God is talking through the animals, but the things they ask her to do will change people's lives, especially her own. The set contains all 13 episodes produced, including the 9 that didn't air on Fox.

My friend Jeff was a total fan of this show, and he begged me to watch it when it premiered, but I resisted. It had a lot going for it; Tim Minear (Angel, FireFly), Todd Holland (The Larry Sanders Show, Malcolm in the Middle) and Brian Fuller (Dead Like Me, Star Trek Voyager, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine). I love all those shows, so it would reason that I would love Wonderfalls as well. Well, I didn't love the show, and I didn't hate it - for once I was indifferent. I enjoyed the last 3 episodes more than the others, and I'll explain why.

I had a huge problem with not knowing why the animals were speaking to Jaye, and who was delivering the messages. This bothered me, and it hampered my enjoyment of the show. I had watched 10 of the 13 episodes, and then I went to LA for a few days. While in LA I met Todd Holland at a Director's Guild party (I think that's what it was), and we got on the topic of Wonderfalls. I told him I didn't "get it," and we talked about it. He said that in testing they found women were concerned for Jaye's well-being, and that guys thought it was cool that the animals talked. Anyway, we talked about it for awhile, and I came to the conclusion that I need to accept that the animals talk, and not-knowing why they're talking to her is part of the fun of the show. Armed with this newfound outlook on the show I sat down and watched the final 3 episodes, and I enjoyed them. I was okay with the animals talking, and I was okay with not knowing why they were talking. I wasn't okay when the popcorn I was eating started to scream, but that's something to work through with my therapist.

Video

I can't think of a new show where Fox has screwed up the transfer for DVD, so I wasn't surprised by the quality of the transfer on this set. The video is presented in Anamorphic Widescreen (1.78:1), and it's about as good as you can get without being perfect. Shadow detail is good, and I didn't notice any specks of dust or debris. Some scenes had a touch of grain in them, but it wasn't horrible. The set includes a chapter placed after the opening of the episode, but the discs lack a "play all" option, which is something all Fox dramas are missing.

Audio

Fox has included an English Dolby Digital 5.1 track, and it sounds pretty decent. The rear speakers weren't used as much as I had hoped, but I guess the show doesn't lend itself to a lot of rear effects. Maybe it was my imagination, or my new outlook on the show, but I noticed more use of the rear speakers in the final few episodes than the rest of the series. The voices of the muses (the animals) often came from offscreen, so those effects sound pretty cool. Fox is decent about providing subtitles, and they've included English and Spanish on the release, as well as closed captions.

Warning - Wonderfalls features a catchy theme song which may get stuck in your head. Someone, please get it out of my head.

Extras - How we rate extras

Commentary Tracks
Six of the 13 episodes contain commentary by Caroline Dhavernas, Katie Finneran, Todd Holland and Bryan Fuller. The tracks are great, and you can hear the bonds formed between the cast and crew members. Listen to these; they're entertaining. Tracks are provided on "Wax Lion," "Crime Dog," "Lovesick Ass," Safety Canary," "Cocktail Bunny" and "Caged Bird."

Greetings from Wonderfalls (22:58)
A good featurette on the show, covering everything from the pre-show material, to the muses Jaye encounters, and the demise of the series. Features interviews with Todd Holland (creator/executive producer), Bryan Fuller (creator/executive producer), Tim Minear (executive producer), Katie Finneran ("Sharon Tyler"), Caroline Dhavernas ("Jaye Tyler"), William Sadler ("Darrin Tyler") and Tyron Leitso ("Eric Gotts"). Some of the interviews were done in the studio (recent pieces) and some were done on set.

Fantastic Visual Effects (3:03)
Todd Holland, and the cast, talk about working with the special effects (the animals).

Music Video (3:07)
A fun video featuring the cast, and clips, from the show. It was a bit too quiet though; crank it!

Summary

I'm always sad to see quirky shows ride off into the sunset. It's bothersome that the only shows which really succeed are the ones that are dumbed down for the general public, and shows like Wonderfalls, and Dead Like Me are killed off before their time. I admit to not knowing what to make of the show, but I think I came around at the end, and I hope the Wonderfalls fans won't hold it against me. Being able to talk to the creator of the show was cool, and I have a huge amount of respect for Todd Holland's work. I regret teasing him about having the Wonderfalls set when he hadn't seen it himself, but I'm sure he'll forgive me.

If you're a fan of quirky shows then you need to pick this up. I think Fox's DVD treatments for shows like Wonderfalls speak volumes about the company. They're willing to put together a great set for a cult show which aired 4 episodes. Well done, Fox, well done.


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